Wednesday November 24, 2021 11:02
The Health and Safety At Work Act 2015 came into force in April 2016. The passage of legislation seems to move slowly! The previous health and safety legislation, The Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992, was considered to be lacking in coverage of affected persons and enforcement. The new Act was felt to be necessary to address the high number of deaths, serious injuries and work-related illnesses occurring in New Zealand workplaces.
So here we are five years further on: what has been the impact of the new legislation?
We now have a new regulatory organisation for the Act – namely WorkSafe NZ. Considerable effort and taxpayer money has been invested in establishing this Government agency to encourage and enforce regulation on NZ industry. A high number of health and safety initiatives have been designed and implemented to reduce harm in the workplaces of New Zealand. The number of worksites inspections, carried out by WorkSafe NZ inspectors have increased substantially.
Unfortunately, there has been no noticeable change in results. Last year we saw the same level of deaths (50 +), serious accidents, and regrettably new occupational diseases such as silicosis. Obviously, this is a major concern and immense pressure must be on WorkSafe NZ to address this worrying trend. We believe this has shifted the emphasise from encouragement to enforcement. There has been a noticeable increase in targeted site inspections, issue of “Improvement notices” and importantly health and safety prosecutions.
One could surmise that health and safety prosecutions have taken a long time to emerge, but the law moves slowly. A trial date has only just been announced for the thirteen defendants accused of health and safety breaches in the lead up to the deadly Whakaari eruption that occurred in December 2019. This is set for July 2023.
WorkSafe NZ is warning company directors that if they are not making sure their company’s operations are safe and healthy, they face enforcement under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.
The warning follows the first WorkSafe prosecution and subsequent conviction and sentencing of a director and his company for health and safety failings.
On 18 October 2021 in the Tauranga District Court, Jon-Brian Parker and his company Kimberley Tool and Design (NZ) Limited were convicted and fined over a November 2018 incident in which a worker suffered crushing injuries while operating a metal press. The ends of his right middle and ring fingers required amputation as a result.
Kimberley Tool and Design (NZ) Ltd was sentenced under sections 36(1)(a), 48(1) and 48(2)(c) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.
Being a PCBU, having a duty to ensure so far as is reasonably practicable the safety of workers who work for the PCBU, including the victim, while the workers are at work in the business or undertaking, namely operating the press, did fail in that duty and that failure exposed workers to risk of serious injury arising from exposure to a crushing hazard created by the moving parts of the press in operation.
As you can see, the company director was fined a total of $185,000.00 out of a maximum penalty of $1,800,000.00. It is fair to assume such fines will only increase over time.
The Health and Safety At Work Act 2015 has a vast range of penalties covering huge fines and in the event of wilful disregard to health and safety at work, terms of imprisonment. The due process of law takes time but it is thorough and certainly something we cannot afford to ignore.
We suggest you discuss your current exposure to risk with your Securo Consultant at the earliest opportunity.
Alternatively, you can contact Securo Head office on Telephone 0800 55 33 44 or message us through our website https://www.securo.co.nz/contactus
Please note our office is open again from December 3rd.
All our H&S Consultants are available for site visits and are double vaccinated.